By: Russ Goldman
With several changes going down at Foxboro, the most significant one could be a different base defense. I have wanted for years for the Patriots to become a more attacking style of defense. The read and the react defense works, but there is more than one way to play defense effectively. Looking at some of the events that have transpired here recently, could the Patriots be returning to the 4-3 defense?
Now, I am sure some of you are reading this, and saying the Patriots under Belichick have always been a base 3-4 defense. That happens not to be true. In 2001 the Patriots played a very effective 4-3 that actually led them to a Super Bowl.
The line that year had Bobby Hamilton at one end, and Anthony Pleasant on the other side. The two defense tackles were Brandon Mitchell, and Richard Seymour. The linebackers consisted of Mike Vrabel, Tedy Brushi in the middle, and Roman Phifer. Statistically this defense certainly wasn’t the greatest, but they stepped it up in the playoffs, and the Super Bowl.
I started thinking when the Patriots traded for Albert Haynesworth that it didn’t make sense. Reportedly Haynesworth did not like playing in a 3-4, and wanted to be in an up the field 4-3 style of defense.
After being released, Ty Warren said that changes are coming to the Patriots defense. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Next, the Patriots cut Ty Warren, and I didn’t understand that move at all. But, it started to sink in to me that there had to be something new going on with the Patriots defense.
Well, today Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has an article with quotes from Ty Warren. I think they are very revealing.
Warren said, “I think it looks like they’re trying to get away from the 3-4. When I heard about the different defensive deals they’re going to be doing, I didn’t see me in that big picture of things, or at least not a huge role in that deal. Then there were the acquisitions they made Albert Haynesworth, which made it even more likely.”
If Warren is correct, and the Patriots are indeed changing to a 4-3, I would seriously be in favor of this move. With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, this style of defense could be one of the solutions to the Patriots issues with getting to the quarterback.
I am also figuring that the Patriots are not done filling out their roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots actively go after 4-3 defense tackles, and defensive ends.
One of the advantages of this style change is most defensive players played the 4-3 in college, and are familiar with the concepts. There are definitely more players for the Patriots to choose from.
If this defense is changing, then the NFL draft makes more sense to me as well. I was screaming for an outside linebacker early in the draft. The Patriots went a different way, and it left me puzzled.
The Patriots could be set at linebacker now if they go to a 4-3. I could see Jerrod Mayo in the middle with Gary Guyton, and Brandon Spikes on the outside.
Your line could consist of Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth as the defensive tackles. Eric Moore and Jermaine Cunningham could be your defensive ends. However, I have a feeling there could be additions to the line.
Coverage and pressure on defense go hand in hand. Over the past couple of seasons, the pressure has not been there. A 4-3 change might help this defense get more aggressive, and disrupt the quarterback.
I hate to go back to the 2007 season and the Super Bowl, but the Giants 4-3 attacking defense got after Tom Brady, and dominated that game. Maybe after several years of not getting back to the biggest game, Belichick has had a change of philosophy? Could the coach be thinking, if I can’t beat them why not join them?
Only time will tell if the Patriots are really changing their defense. I am one person who would welcome it with open arms.